Jesus the Jew

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Prov 19:17 says those gracious to the poor are lending to God. It's hard for anyone familiar with the New Testament to think about such a statement for very long without being reminded of Jesus' discussion in Matthew 25, where he says, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me."

It amazes me how far people will go to find sources outside the Hebrew tradition for some of Jesus' ideas. So many of his statements are steeped in the language and conceptual framework of the Hebrew scripture. The extent of these connections don't often enough get noticed, and not all of them are as obvious as others, but enough of them are transparent enough that I have to wonder if the people who make such statements know the Hebrew scriptures very well.

Christians will look at this example as a proverb in the Hebrew scriptures teaching a principle that would come to be exemplified in Jesus' teaching about himself, with the implication that Jesus is according himself divinity by taking on a feature the Hebrew scriptures reserve for God. But even those more skeptical of such notions should at least admit that Jesus' teachings are so strongly influenced by the Hebrew Bible and that it's contextually insensitive to take Jesus to be primarily something more like a Roman Stoic or an adherent to the teachings of some kind of eastern mysticism. Where there might be similarities there, his actual background, language, and cultural milieu serve as a far better explanation even of the teachings that are fairly distinctive in the gospels and not found with such close parallels such as this one.

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In my own quest for the real Jesus it became clear to me that not only was it crucial for Jesus to retain his first century Jewish reality, as well as his apparently encyclopedic knowledge of scripture (remember the incident in the Temple when he was only twelve and yet impressed the doctors of the Law with his understanding), but also important to separate out of the New Testament all that comes from Paul and concentrate instead on what Jesus actually said and did, as far as we can using the four Gospels plus the Gospel of Thomas which recent studies indicate was written about mid first century or a little later. If you do so you find two main thrusts to what Jesus said and did. First, he taught the Kingdom of Heaven, how it was inside us and all around us, and that if we wanted to find God we had to find the Kingdom. Second, he healed people throughout Palestine, and these healings figure so prominently throughout the four Evangelists because they are a true record of acts by Jesus during his ministry. So many people remembered these healings, long after Jesus' ascension, that the Evangelists had no choice but to include them.
In any case, I have been studying the historical Jesus for more than twenty-five years and yet when it came my time to write my book it turned out to be a fictional memoir dictated by the apostle Thomas to one of his converts of all that he as an old man can recall of what Jesus said and did the three years they spent together. The book is made up of 144 vignettes that take some 380 pages to tell. Within the book, Thomas unleashes his animus towards Paul and explains it. The book is called Tales of the Master and is available through Amazon. Karl Bruno Gatti

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